Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gray and Green

We spent last Saturday afternoon and evening celebrating at a big party with our friends. It is an annual event that the kids look forward to for weeks every year. Games. Feasting. Friends. Music. A celebration of the good life God has given us. We remember that He has made us like green flourishing trees, fruitful and abundant. And we thank Him by celebrating with these very earthy gifts He has given us.

This is part of the view from the venue of the party. It is an old seminary building built in the 1930's, but now empty and unused. It is stunning from the outside, but the inside is pretty much cold and lifeless, except for one wing (the old dining hall) that is still used for weddings and receptions. People have dreams of making it a hotel someday. I hope that someone will revive its former elegance.

We all needed that party, a time to forget the ugliness and brokenness all around us in our world today. I don't mean the sloshing around kind of forgetfulness, but a mindful forgetfulness, for a few moments, of the bad news. A purposeful remembrance of God's good gifts, the color in our world, the promise that He makes all things beautiful in His time, that there is a good purpose behind all the sadness and hurt we hear so much about. A gray and colorless palette is a landscape in which bright colors can vividly shine. God is at work in this world of ours. And when you know that, all the sudden you see the world through new eyes. Colors become more vibrant against the gray backdrop. The rainy day makes the green breathtakingly vivid. There is Hope for this world, a living and true Hope that will not disappoint.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fall is Falling

A friend recently asked me what my favorite season was. Unequivocally, spring. No doubt about it. I love new life, longer days, warmer temperatures, the end of the school year. It thrills me.

Fall is hard for me to embrace. It is beautiful, but in a sad sort of way. It is like a last dying breath, a short-lived blaze of glory before everything goes to sleep. Oh, I know that spring will come again. The seeds fall into the ground and wait for their day. Hope buries itself in the earth, and we have to wait for a resurrection. There is a sort of pain in my soul every year when September comes around. I don't like it when things die.

This September has been a typical gorgeous curtain call. The actors are taking their final bows, and the play is over. And they are very flamboyant about it all, hanging on to the applause until the very last possible moment.

The last flowers of the season.

Seattle September Skies

These colors are breathtaking.

The light is golden, and the shadows are getting longer.

Green and gold

Leaves barely hanging on to the branches

This maple tree will shortly turn into blaze of red.

September is the season for spiders. We watched this one catch his supper, actually another spider!

There is a house being built just down the road. I love hearing all the machinery and construction noise. And the smells of a new of my very favorite things. It has nothing to do with September, except this year.

Around here, September means chanterelles! My husband foraged these, and we ate them. Everything about them is sensual--the color, the smell of the dirt, the delicate gills, the smell of them cooking (to me they smell like clean clothes!), the texture in your mouth. Heavenly!

And of course a September quilting project, while I can still take pictures outside. This is the backing to my Churned quilt, jelly roll race style. No math involved.

Farewell, summer! We will see you again next year!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cultivating A Quiet Spirit

I Peter 3:3-4 "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

Noise. It is all around us. Crying babies. Visual noise on our screens. Crowded schedules. Demanding people. The pressure to conform to others' standards. We feel pulled in every direction so often. Finding a moment of quiet is many times an impossible task, a luxury rarely enjoyed. I suggest we consider quietness a frame of mind, not merely a span of time.

Earlier today, my 5-year-old pulled open our glass sliding door, on a day a little too cool to need that draft. I asked him why he was doing that, and he innocently said, "I want to hear the birds." I think I melted into a puddle. He wasn't demanding quiet. In fact, he probably didn't even notice the bustle all around him. He wanted to hear the birds. He was in the frame of mind to listen, not regarding the din around him.

I have tried to make it a practice to sometimes tell the kids to stop and listen. I ask them what they hear. Attitudes change when we stop and listen to the world around us. This is really hard for small children to do, but we can try. We have to force ourselves into a mindset, stop our own mouths, and actively listen. Now this kind of external quiet is not always possible. Sometimes you can't turn the volume down.

What about that quiet spirit Peter was writing about? It is a frame of mind that remains gentle and serene even when everything and everyone around is clamoring and boisterous. It is a cultivated spirit, a garden in the middle of chaos, watered by God's Word and prayer and fellowship with other believers. It is a refreshment to all who are nearby, an oasis in a desert of worldly care and worry.

Who has planned every circumstance of my day? Do I have a right to resist Him, to let my spirit shout at Him in response to his sovereign blueprint for that moment? I am the worst culprit, letting my temper loose in moments of surprise and sudden disappointment. What if I just surrendered that [usually petty] moment, just whispered a prayer of thanks and moved on? What if instead of reacting to that child's behavior [again] I just murmured a short prayer that God would speak to Him and give me a calm response. This is not to excuse inaction on our part, but to suggest we sprinkle more prayer on those situations. Won't God hear and answer? What if I put my harried moments in the perspective of a week, a year, my lifetime, or eternity? Will I even remember or care about the broken dish or spilled glass or torn book? A quiet spirit thinks beyond today. It remembers God knows all things.

A quiet spirit is a spirit at rest. Its anchor is in the Unchangeable, so that when all around me is swirling and eddying in the tides of change, I can be confident I am safe. I can sleep peacefully and know Who holds my world together. Even when I have made my own storm, I can rest in forgiveness and security that God is there with me.

I Peter 5:10 "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establishstrengthen, and settle you."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nifty Thrifty

It was a good thrifting day today! I love these old books that no one seems to notice. This one is perfect for my nature study shelf, all about Jim's adventures in the woods and all the animals he meets.

I adore the colored illustrations and plates found throughout the book.

We've been doing a pretty good job of reading the things I bring home, if they are picture books. This one will find its home in my Morning Basket for sure.

I love the life-like illustrations of the animals as well as the poems that begin each new chapter.

The mountain ash was wearing
Her beads of coral red,
And the fuzzy caterpillars
Were all looking for a bed;
The thistle birds were calling,
And the air was crisp and clear,
"Summer has gone," said Buddy Jim
And Winter'll soon be here."

And the other happy find of the day...

If it has Melody Miller's name on it, I pounce on it. Ha. Gotcha!

This book is about creative ways to wrap gifts. But it is so much more than that. It is a craft and  sewing book. It is a photographic feast for the eyes, and an enjoyable read with quotes and anecdotes all throughout.

I love the colors and vintage vibe...

Here is a project teaching you how to make a box out of a vintage board game.

There are also ideas for bags, garlands, other types of boxes, and paper crafts. So inspiring!

I love this quote...

"Things are not difficult to make. What is difficult is putting ourselves in a state of mind to make them."

And finally, I got happy mail today! Stephanie from Modern Sewciety sent me this thank you package for the Boxcar Tote I sent her recently. I love this fabric and can't wait to use it for something special. I see more surprise packages to sewing peeps in the future, because it's just really fun to make things for other people.

Happy fall, y'all.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Summer's Swansong

He is blowing away the vestiges of summer. The promise of another spring is about to be put to rest in the chilly earth, to sleep away the winter's bluster and bite.

The little creatures are slowing down, preparing to rest until the green time returns.

The golden afternoon sun turns the fall colors into blazing beauty. This Cateye Pouch in fall hues is about to be sent off as a surprise gift.

Fabrics are all thrifted or from my scrap collection.

Soup is a simple comfort for September suppers.
Here are a couple low-maintenance recipes I love at the end of a busy day.

Simple Baked Potato Soup for a Crowd
Bake 10-12 medium sized potatoes for 1 hour at 415*
Saute onion and carrot until soft.
Add several cloves minced garlic and saute.
Wilt chopped kale in same pot.
Add cooled and chopped baked potatoes, skin and all.
Add broth or water to cover potatoes.
Blend until smooth with immersion blender, adding water as necessary.
Add plenty of salt to taste..
Add a few generous dollops of sour cream.
Finally, add cooked bacon, sausage, or bratwurst.


Simple Chicken Soup
Place whole chicken in crockpot, minus the giblets.
Drizzle with a little oil, and sprinkle with salt.
Put 1-2 cut lemons in cavity.
Cook on low 5-6 hours.
Cool and shred chicken off the bone.
In a pot, saute onion and carrot.
Mince and saute garlic if desired.
I added cooked leftover rice and chopped kale this time around.
Cover with water.
Add chicken and broth from crockpot and serve.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Shameless Plugs Clutter

I love books. You know that Marie Kondo book that has been going around for a few months now? How tidying up is a life-changing magic? Haven't read it. But I have heard enough about it that I get the gist. And when it comes to books, I have no feng shui or desire to purge my house and life of that sort of clutter, as she suggests in her bestselling book.  Books are my friends, and I invite them freely into the walls of my home, clutter though they may be.

So when I recently heard of Out of Print Clothing, I was immediately in love. Who wouldn't want to sport their favorite book cover on his shirt? Or tote bag, or coffee mug...I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered the Mouse and the Motorcycle shirt for a birthday present for one of my kids who is reading that book. He has worn it every day since he got it.

Not only do they make unusual and attractive clothing, they also donate a portion of the price to buy books for needy communities in Africa. And the replica library card hang tag is too cute to toss. Ahh, so much for purging clutter.

I came across a book recommendation over at Modern Mrs. Darcy that piqued my interest, being a mother of six boys and all. It is called That Crumpled Paper That Was Due Last Week, and it claims to help me know how to help distracted and disorganized boys straighten out their bad habits. Another one added to my must-read list, which is growing more cluttered. I need to learn how to prioritize those better. Seems that every time a "must-read" comes across my path, #1 on my priority list changes.

One last recommendation, this time not something that costs money--using notebooks to simplify homeschooling. This is new for me this year, and though I resisted it in the past, I finally surrendered. And it is working nicely for our family. Each student has a notebook that I write daily assignments in, with boxes to check when they have completed the task. Two boxes means that I have to check off when I have evaluated their work. It takes a little time each evening, but I have discovered not only the obvious benefits of keeping them on task but also another avenue of communication I can have with each kid. We sometimes write jokes back and forth, or write little notes to each other. Of course the system is not without challenges, such as, "Where is my notebook," or "Why didn't you check off the boxes?" but we are working those out.

So there it is. A little glimpse of my happily cluttered life.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The "Say Yes" Challenge

I have realized recently that through the years I have said "no" to my kids a lot. "No" is a very good thing if I am teaching them respect, obedience, and self control. But when not balanced with a generous portion of "yes," you end up with some empty tanks, and that is not pleasant at all! My husband and I have made a little challenge for ourselves to say "yes," if at all possible and in their best interests, to the kids' requests. "Can you read me [this mile-high] stack of books?" "Can we go on a walk?" "I want to help you scoop the muffins." "Will you color with me?" It isn't always feasible, especially in the middle of cooking, but we have tried to be more generous with our responses. And in doing that, we have, like mine diggers, unearthed some otherwise hidden treasures of our kids' personalities and their particular stages of development, even revisiting childhood ourselves sometimes.

This past weekend I said "yes" to a walk outside with the Littles. I really wanted to do my own projects, but I chose against that. And look!

We have been hunting for four-leaf clovers (at least, I have), and I found one! I have never found one in all my life. Oh, the joy of saying "yes!".

We also found some other treasures. Seeds of all sorts, and something that's not a seed.

I just love those times we spend together. Without getting all sappy, I will just say, saying "yes" helps me treasure the moments that so quickly fade away.

Here is my current work in progress. It is the Cateye Pouch from Thread Riding Hood. I have made it a couple times, and I love the pattern so much. It is another surprise for someone unsuspecting, hee hee! I found the orange shot cotton at Value Village yesterday. I am on a fabric-buying freeze except for scraps and solids. So I didn't cheat! Angus the dog made it into the picture too. I love the colors in that book.

I did meander into a quilt shop the other day, and I began to drool over a bolt or two I found in the clearance section. But I walked away with empty hands. Pat me on the back!

Some other goodies I found at Value Village yesterday. Someone must have purged Grandma's linen chest, because there were all sorts of pretty embroidered things there. But I couldn't buy them all.

Look at this gorgeous crocheted apron I found for $2! I think it would be so dainty with a little Easter dress.

I believe it was handmade. And the blue satin ribbons sealed the deal for me.

Here's to a new week of "yes." Try it--I bet you will like the results.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Delightful Friday--Churn Dash and Eggrolls

It felt so good to come to the end of this day, the end of the first week of school for me and many of my friends. It was a good week. We worked hard. My piano studio is the fullest it's ever been, and I have added my own kids to the roster as well. That makes 19-20 kids! I am so grateful for each one that walks through my door. Making and teaching music is the joy of my life!

I think the highlight of my sewing week was letting the Boxcar Tote cat "out of the bag." Ha ha. It is a funny story--I was listening to a recent Modern Sewciety podcast and happened to hear Stephanie joke about wanting someone to send her a Boxcar Tote. I thought, "How cool would it be to actually make her one and send it to her?" So I did! And she received it and loves it. I love surprising people! I feel like I made a new friend in doing so.

Sewing time is a little scarce now that school is in session. But I sneak a little here and there. The Churn Dash quilt top is nearly finished.

Churn Dash blocks completed!

Cute mess of dog ears

Block layout of the wonky Churn Dash quilt

Of course no project is complete without a roadblock or two. I had to reorder the gray Essex Linen. When I cut out the remaining pieces, I still came up short. Sheesh. So I ordered it again because I want to add one more row to this top. It will end up a little bigger now. I am going for a square top.

This has nothing to do with quilts, but it does have something to do with Friday. A little while back my husband discovered these $1.29 egg rolls at Safeway. Often we will take a kid there and have a little time together. It's close to home, doesn't cost much, and they love it. Sometimes we talk, and sometimes we just sit there and enjoy our snack, no words necessary.

It is a rare occasion that I am at the store by myself. Well, today I was, and I sneaked an egg roll (no, I didn't steal it) and ate it all up as I sat in the parking lot. I didn't have to share it. It was absolutely delightful. It even dribbled all over my shirt, and I didn't care. It was so good. Three cheers for mama moments. Just what I needed this afternoon after a full teaching day. Thank you, Lord, for simple pleasures.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Piecing With the End In Mind

School has begun. The days are getting shorter, and the pencils meet the paper once again. I have been pondering how all the various pieces of a day will work out in the end. Here I am filling out assignment books, penciling in dates and responsibilities on my calendar, planning how we will fill our minds and hearts with facts and verses. It all seems so much. So many days stretch out endlessly before us. How will we ever learn everything?

In the evenings I spend a few minutes sewing, not as much as on the lazy summer days. It doesn't seem like I am getting very far very fast. I have a whole pile of blocks and pieces of blocks that don't look like anything very special. In fact, the pieces seem like they will never end.

Then I remember...

We learn all these facts, memorize all the verses, stitch all the little pieces, with the end in mind. I long for the day we will all recite our Scripture passages from our hearts because we have put them in our minds. When the children are able to apply their arithmetic to jobs and household duties, I will be thrilled. When my quilt is pieced, quilted, and bound, I will snuggle in it and be comforted by its warmth. I will have forgotten all the pieces and will look at it as an entire, completed, enjoyable work of my hands.

Of course we can't see the entire picture of this school year yet. We just see the pieces. But I pray that we will work with the end in mind. God is faithful who called us to this work, and He will put all the pieces together in an unimaginable, masterful, and breathtaking way.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Sourdough Experiment

Since I have revived my sourdough starter, I am faced daily with its care and feeding, like it is another child added to the roll call! It's simple to take care of, and I love having it around. It doesn't talk back to me, and it always does what I ask it to do, usually the first time, a very easy child.

Well, last week I had this silly idea to put some of my starter on my local Buy Nothing group, just to see what would happen. I have seen crazier things there, so what could it hurt. I didn't realize what an impact a simple jar of starter could make. In two days, I gave away 7 jars of it. Now I am seeing pictures of loaves of bread pop up on my news feed. Good, homemade, nourishing bread. That makes me so happy. I plan to do this again soon. I realize 7 jars is just the tip of the iceberg; what if I made this a weekly or monthly give? How many people would learn something new, bake their first loaf of bread, or just have a new recipe to try? How many friends could be fed? How many people could I connect with?

All fed and ready to go to new homes 

Happy Starter!

The Buy Nothing project is really an amazing community. It is what it says it is. There is no money involved. You ask for what you need or want, and you offer what you have. It is not even a bartering system. Used properly, it engenders the desire to give back as you have been given to. I have witnessed so many times what a generous, thoughtful community I live in. People are generally so kind and helpful. A few examples:

My washing machine broke. Within one or two days, I had a replacement from a family that lived 5 blocks away. They had one just sitting in their garage. We helped them by taking it out of their place, and they helped us by giving us that washer. To boot, I found a little money in the rubber gasket. As hard as I tried to give it back, they insisted we just keep it. Bonus!

A few weeks ago we were cleaning out the garage, and I had a ton of nice kitchen stuff to give away. So on to Buy Nothing it went. People were in and out of my driveway for days picking up things they wanted or needed. One morning, I noticed one of the ladies stopped on my porch listening to my son practice his violin. She was so touched by his music that the next day she showed up with a cherry tart, warm from the oven! Long story short, she ended up coming back a couple more times. I finally just invited her in for coffee. See, life is about so much more than stuff. My stuff became useful to someone else, and I made a new friend or two in the process.

I hope my kids take these memories with them their whole lives. I hope we learn to be more generous every day. I hope our music continues to touch people in a way words can't. I hope we always give as we have been given to.